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posted on May 30, 2012 10:33

NEWS RELEASE--FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                             DATE: May 30, 2012

Tom Shanahan Public Information Officer (208) 334-0668

Play It Safe with Canals and Irrigation Water This Summer

Summer is finally arriving, with warming temperatures, schools recessing, and gardens sprouting the season’s first veggies. With the arrival of the much anticipated summer months, it is a good time for you and your family to review canal safety and the appropriate uses of irrigation water.

Water from canals is the lifeblood for many Idaho farms, but it also can be dangerous. Over the last five years of available data, 14 people have drowned in canals or irrigation ditches in Idaho, with many others suffering illnesses attributed to ingesting irrigation water.

For health and safety around irrigation water and canals, people should:

  1. Never swim or allow children to swim in canals. Canals are dangerous due to slippery banks, diversions, and fluctuating currents.
  2. Obey all posted warning signs. If walking, jogging or biking along canals, keep a safe distance from the edges of the flowing water.
  3. Never use canal irrigation water to fill swimming pools, “kiddie” pools, hot tubs or for bathing or drinking. Water from canals can contain agricultural runoff, bacteria, protozoans, chemicals, fecal material from animals, or other contaminants that can cause serious illness.
  4. Label all standpipes from irrigation piped systems that use canal water with the words “NON-POTABLE – DO NOT DRINK”.
    Irrigation water for edible crops should not come into direct contact with edible parts of the plant unless the crop will be peeled, skinned, or cooked before eating.
  5. Never connect piping using irrigation water with freshwater potable water systems. Canal water is not chlorinated and can pollute drinking water systems.

Even if you do not use irrigation water for your yards or garden, all underground sprinkler systems connected to potable drinking water sources should have a backflow device that is tested annually to protect the drinking water source. A list of approved Backflow Assembly Testers can be obtained from the Idaho Bureau of Occupational Licenses at:

Irrigation water is integral to Idaho agriculture, which is its intended purpose. Any other use of irrigation water can be dangerous or pose a serious public health risk.